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Downtown business districts are dying as business shifts to suburbs

Date Posted: 2004-04-08

The plight of central business districts across Japan is becoming critical, and Okinawa’s cities and towns are feeling the same pinch.

Businesses are migrating from the city centers to the suburbs, leaving cavities, empty buildings and a depression.

The competition is centrally located shopping malls now in the suburbs of Naha, Urasoe, Ginowan and Chatan. The main roadside area of Naha, Omoromachi, is home to several large shopping centers which are luring businesses from various inner city locations.

Apartments, restaurants, amusement facilities, parks are all within easy reach of the shopping centers.

The downtown areas in the central cities are emptying. Land is expensive, which makes business rents high, and parking for both customers and workers is expensive. In some areas, it is nearly non-existent. Small stores and businesses simply cannot afford to remain downtown.

Okinawa City has put a subsidy in place to protect and keep small size shops. The city pays the shops’ rentals, or pays half the worker payrolls, or pays all promotional costs.

Local officials blame the new law for their plight, which stems from new environmental rules which says there should be reform, planting greenery and parks, and taking steps to make the areas more comfortable for residents. Instead of making things better, they say suburban businesses are attracting all the big size business people to their areas, where land is very cheap.

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